Secrets of a Professional Bodyguard: How to Stay Safe in a Crowd

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Author of BEYOND the Prepper Stockpile and Be Ready for Anything

Have you ever wondered how personal protection experts can manage to watch a big crowd to keep a high-profile individual safe from the one person in the crowd who wants to do them harm? I recently had the opportunity to conduct a fascinating interview and learn some of the secrets of a professional bodyguard.

I recently met Drew, who has been working in the personal security sector at a high level for several years. Formerly a member of the US military, he has undergone rigorous training to be able to identify those who pose a threat to the person whom he is protecting and to work with a team to keep them safe.

While we certainly can’t all afford our own private security teams, there’s a lot we can learn from a guy who does this kind of work full-time.

Why do we need to learn the secrets of a professional bodyguard?

The world has gotten a lot crazier over the past few years and tensions have grown. There are a variety of reasons for this:

  • Political strife
  • Potential terrorism
  • Medical freedom
  • Racial tension
  • Extremist philosophies

People from every possible facet of life are angry, and angry people are dangerous. Add a crowd dynamic and mob mentality to that anger and you don’t have to be a high-profile figure to become a target. Remember the lady who was having dinner at a sidewalk cafe and faced the ire of a group of people who wanted her to pledge obeisance to their political cause?

If everyday people can easily become targets, you can imagine how dangerous it is to be a public figure or celebrity. But the tides have turned to the extent that now, we can all benefit from learning the secrets of a professional bodyguard. Drew and I spoke for a few hours about the following topics, and I’ve turned our discussion into an article that I hope you’ll find informative. Any mistakes in conveying the information are completely mine.

What are the visual cues that indicate someone is potentially violent?

In the study of violence dynamics, there are certain visual cues that indicate a person is considering or planning an aggressive action in a one-on-one situation. Most of these cues are completely unconscious but knowing what they are can help you in two ways. First, it can give you an early warning that the person confronting you may attack. Secondly, it can help you to prevent giving out these hints yourself. Out of all of the things on the list, I know I’m personally guilty of the weapons check if I’m in a situation in which I feel like I might need to defend myself.

This information is a combination gleaned from my interview with Drew, the book Facing Violence by Rory Miller, and a violence de-escalation course I took with Dr. Tammy McCracken of 500Rising. Note that people who are more comfortable and familiar with violence are less likely to display these traits.

  • Distance checking: An aggressor will often reach out and touch someone on the shoulder or chest before becoming violent as an unconscious distance check to make certain the person is within reach of a blow.
  • Releasing adrenaline: A surge of adrenaline that can precipitate violence often causes people to move around to release some of the energy. They might clench and unclench their fists, roll their shoulders, loosen up their necks, or move from foot to foot.
  • Weapons check: When people are anticipating violence, they’ll often perform a quick, unconscious weapons check. This means you might catch them patting the place they keep their weapon. This might be a waistband, a pocket, or a bag of some sort. You may find that you do it too. Those who know about this factor will then know where your weapons are and you’ll lose your element of surprise.

But things are different when you’re scanning a crowd of people.

What visual cues cause someone to stand out in a crowd as a possible aggressor?

Have you ever looked out into a large crowd? As someone who has done a fair bit of public speaking, I can tell you that it seems like a sea of faces and I would be hard-pressed to identify anyone for whom I was not specifically looking. Add lighting and movement and it’s difficult to tell one person from another.

But discerning that one person who might have ill intent out of a large crowd of people is part of the job for a personal protection expert like Drew. While most of us are probably not celebrities, we’ve all seen over the past few years just how quickly a group of people can turn on someone who just happens to be wearing the wrong t-shirt.

What are the secrets of a professional bodyguard when it comes to sifting through the harmless folks and locating those who might have dangerous intentions? When Drew scans the crowds, he says what he looks for is different based on the audience and the setting.

This means that you have to determine what is “normal” behavior for wherever you happen to be. I wrote about this from the perspective of being less noticeable in my article, “Gray Is the New Black.” The term used for normal in various settings is called “baseline.” The book Left of Bang goes in-depth on the topic of noticing shifts in baseline.

Baseline will be different in different places. Are you in a place where everyone is really excited and cheering? The person who sticks out would the one who is not animated, the person who looks serious or even angry. Are you in a hot, crowded place? If so, then why is that guy wearing a parka? If you are at a crowded event, these are the kinds of things you’re looking for.

Drew looks for people who are paying more attention to security than to the high-profile individual they’re protecting. Is there a person watching security, looking for exits, or looking for ways to get closer to a potential target? (The first two might just be your average prepper!)

The point is, when you are in a crowd pay attention to that which is different. This will vary according to location, general attitude, etc. If you are approached by an angry group, the study of mob behavior suggests that most people are acting as a group, not as individuals. Is there a person in the group who is behaving differently? That could very possibly be the most dangerous person.

What are the verbal or written cues of impending violence?

There are a lot of folks blowing off steam in the United States right now. People are irate for a number of reasons and say things that they probably shouldn’t. Out of all that noise, how does a personal protection expert identify the verbal or written threats that are more likely to be carried out?

According to Drew, they look for two things: specificity and curiosity.

With regard to specificity, it’s one thing to say, “I’d like to punch that celebrity in the mouth because of the way he talks about this topic.” It’s an entirely different matter to say, “That celebrity goes for coffee and a bagel at John Doe’s Deli every morning and his security waits outside. I’m going to go in, get my own coffee, and wait for him to come in so I can punch him in the mouth.” The first person is just talking while the second has done some research and has a plan. The more detailed the plan, whether spoken, written on social media, or noted somewhere on paper, the more likely the person is to actually carry it out.

Another indicator is when someone actually approaches security and starts asking questions about protocols. Most of the time it’s only curiosity, but this is a red flag for a professional bodyguard. They begin to ask their own questions to ascertain whether the discussion began out of genuine curiosity or if the person is actually a threat.

What are the secrets of a professional bodyguard when it comes to de-escalation?

The best way to handle violence is to avoid it altogether. (I heard echoes of Toby and Selco here: don’t be there!) When a potential threat catches the eye of a security team because of some of the reasons discussed above, the experts go talk to them. Not only does this give them a better feel for whether or not the person is really a threat, but it also gives the person a warning: “We see you and we feel like you may be up to something.”

How can you use these de-escalation secrets of a professional bodyguard as just an average person? It’s easy. If you’ve noticed that someone is paying unusual interest to you, make eye contact. This is a non-aggressive way to let them know that you are aware of their attention. When I was at an ATM in Mexico with a friend, I noticed that a couple of guys were sizing us up as he took money from the machine. I met their eyes and suddenly they seemed far less interested when they saw a sneak attack wasn’t going to be possible.

Another thing you can do only if you are in a safe environment with other people around is to speak to the person. Don’t try this alone in a dark alley in downtown Chicago.  Make it casual but let them know you aren’t there alone (even if you are). This lets them know you are aware of them. One thing potential attackers seek is the element of surprise. Often, if they lose that advantage, they may move on to easier targets. Keep in mind if you engage that your goal is not to be challenging or aggressive. You’re simply making it known that you are paying attention.

Do people planning attacks in public places give warnings?

Drew said that statistically, public attacks are nearly always preceded by a warning of some sort. He cited the following statistics from the National Threat Assessment Center:

  • Nearly 100% of school shooters communicated about their intent to attack. (Page 54)
  • 1/3-2/3 of school shooters had detailed plans ahead of their attack. (Page 54)
  • In non-school mass attacks, 2/3 of attackers talked about their plans online. (Page 22)

What we can learn from this is that threats should be taken seriously. If someone you know is threatening you or somebody else, take note of the threat. Look at its specificity. Is the person performing research to attack more efficiently, whether they plan to attack a crowded place or an individual?

The statistics show that more people communicate about an imminent attack than those who quietly plan it then enact it. The resources above are loaded with warning signs of which you should be aware.

Prevention is better than reaction.

Drew said that his best advice in these troubled times is that prevention is better than reaction. If you’re in a public space and you notice the signs that an angry group is gathering, leave. It doesn’t matter if you’ve paid for your meal or your ticket to an event. You will remain safer by preventing the potential altercation altogether. From a professional protection standpoint, a credible threat is often reason enough to cancel an event.

You can often avoid problems by not being in places where violence is more likely. For example, don’t walk out to the parking garage in the middle of the night by yourself – go in a group.  Avoid protests and demonstrations. Don’t go to places where tensions are high if you can avoid them.

Of course, particularly these days, we can’t always avoid trouble. If you find yourself in a situation with a crowd, fighting back is nearly impossible, even if you’re armed. You are better off trying and personalize yourself. It can be more difficult, even for someone swept up in mob mentality, to commit violence against someone’s mom, grandfather, or child. This isn’t a guarantee they won’t still attack you, but it can give you a possible way out.

Professional bodyguards take situational awareness to an entirely different level.

Situational awareness, a topic we discuss regularly on this website, is an invaluable tool for keeping yourself safe, both by avoiding trouble and knowing what to do if trouble finds you. Be observant when you’re out. Note potential hiding places, both for yourself and for those who might have ill intent. Find the exits. Think through what you’d do if someone robbed the convenience store you’re in. Where could you hide your children safely? Is there a back exit through which you could escape? What can you weaponize to your advantage? As Drew said, “Having a plan makes a difference.”

Attackers nearly always have a plan. So should you.

Do you find these secrets of a professional bodyguard helpful? Do you agree or disagree with Drew’s advice? Share your thoughts in the comments.

About Daisy

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, adventure-seeking, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty; 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived; and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. Her work is widely republished across alternative media and she has appeared in many interviews.

Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books, 11 self-published books, and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses at Learn.TheOrganicPrepper.com You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

Secrets of a Professional Bodyguard: How to Stay Safe in a Crowd
Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

Leave a Reply

  • Great article! These days especially, it pays to be paranoid. Staying out of trouble is the best self-defense. If that’s not possible, then have a plan for getting out of trouble. One great resource is Gavin de Becker’s book “The Gift of Fear.” He discusses many, many ways to evaluate the situation and respond in healthy, effective ways. One thing he discusses is what he calls “the interview.” Criminals may try to strike up a conversation in order to gain information. Check this out. This happened to me a few months ago at a local farmer’s market.

    I sat on a public bench. The guy on the other end immediately strikes up a conversation about the weather. We agree that it’s a nice day, then he started getting personal. Where do I live. When I gave a very vague answer, he actually asked for my address. Am I married. Where is my husband. What’s his name. At that point, I got up and walked INTO the crowd, to get away from this guy. He didn’t follow.

    Another incident, the weekend of a BLM protest happening 1/2 mile from my house: I went grocery shopping the day before, since I was planning to stay home and well away from any potential rioting. A very big guy followed me in the store. He got into my personal space in the produce aisle. I’d pick up an item and replace it. He’d pick up the exact same item, staring me in the eye the entire time. I was geniunely rattled at this point, but I looked him right back in the eye and again, walked away. He lost interest because I wasn’t presenting as a soft target. Criminals prefer the soft, easy target. Since he was so up in my space I doubt I could have pulled my gun in time, but simply engaging with eye contact did the trick.

    Stay safe out there!

    • Jayne, the DW and I had a similar experience on Christmas Eve 1993. We came out of a store and as we approached our car a guy jumps out of a near by Van and starts walking towards us asking similar questions. The fact that he was holding what looked like a piece of pipe at his side did it for me. I Opened the our cars door, shouted to my DW to “get in quickly!”, and as I pushed the lock down, he reached for the door handle trying to get inside of our car. At that time I carried a 9mm in the glove box which my DW took out and showed to him standing outside. He then ran off.

      Since them we have had of Concealed Carry permits in every state that we have live in. Heck we even carry to Church on Sundays.

    • couple months ago went into jersey mikes to pickup order, came back out, couple boys walking into the parking lot towards my car, I got in and they started to ask me something, I pulled the door shut, locked and pretended I didnt hear them…I heard them say “we just wanted some spare change”….took off! scared me though, I’m up in age and cant move fast… and I live in a fairly small town with low crime….I’m always on the watch around me, cause I go lots of places by myself….if wasnt so much trouble I’d go ahead and get my ccw for this state….have one in state where used to live, but dont carry here……

      • KT, I’m sure you’re aware of how many other weapons are available. If nothing else, pepper spray or a taser. As Jarhead says, there are a lot of creepy people in the world. A woman by herself is definitely at risk, and I’m too young to die and too old to take a whupping. No thank you.

    • Yes, absolutely. Simply click on the URL address line of the article and copy it. Then paste that into an email. Or if you are on my email list, you can just forward it. I’ll be sending it out shortly.

    • Man how it gets old seeing the US bashing in article comments. Certainly the gov’t as well as the people who let it all get to this point are clowns. However there aren’t too many places around the globe where things aren’t just as fucked up.

  • A couple of years ago an elderly friend went to the local grocery store. She had gotten a $100 dollar bill from her son for Mothers
    Day. She got a few groceries and
    cashed her $100. As she got to her car a man pushed the door into her and said I saw you cash the $100 and I want what you have. She had a few $1 bill rolled up in her pocket. She pulled them out and gave it to him and he run off.
    She went back in the store and they called the police. LOVE the article So much good advice

    • It may appear a better strategy, but oftentimes the opposite is recommended, precisely to ostensively display force, organization, capacity and preparation, and discourage attackers.

      Here where I live, 99% of rich and famous have armies of bodyguards, usually cops or ex-cops (police here is divided between civil for investigative works and military for ostensive patrol).

      This also makes it easier and more convenient to deal with some situations (lethal confrontations), which aren’t too uncommon around here. These guys and gals also have connections to monitor the underworld and the “word of the street” to stay ahead of the curve and work preemptively.

      The idea is to make it noticeable but not overly so. It’s a specific technique, they strive for a balance between tactical efficiency, and keeping some distance to preserve the privacy and relative freedom of the protected, which of course is highly regarded and valued by the powerful and rich.

      So they usually keep a distance (drive in a separate car, enter and exit premises before their protégées, eat, hang and move around in strategic formation, etc.) and adopt a similar style to blend in and be slightly less conspicuous (i.e. a more casual or “Agent Smith” look depending on the age, position and style of whoever they’re protecting).

      It’s pretty crazy really, all of that (and more) is discussed with the client and done under guidance and advice of specialists in safety.

  • In 2009 my wife flew up to Alaska after I got out of the bush to drive home with me in the L48.

    The ALCAN is always an amazing driving adventure, but I’m never able to relax, because one little thing can strand a driver-for a week or better in some cases. So, my eyes, ears, and nose are working overtime for days on the trip. The trick for me is, drive only 350-500 mile increments and get a lot of good rest, that way one can relax for the next day.

    In AB south of Calgary, I noticed a vehicle never got off my butt. I’d slow down he’d slow down. I’d change lanes, he’d change lanes. I got off on an exit south of town to pretend I needed fuel. Keep in mind, I’m in Canada-home of the most polite and charming folks in the entire world, but I have no side arm and per Law my weapons are cased outside my reach in the bed of the truck. No time to get at them.

    So, I pull into the fuel Island (I had a diesel truck, they didn’t notice I pulled next to the gas pump near the store exit) get out to go inside and saw one dude get out of the white van out the slider to go in also. I feigned exasperation like I forgot my wallet and snapped back around to the truck to see how many guys were in the van. I could see only two, both in the front. when I spun around quickly the other guy visibly stalled, like he couldn’t decide whether to continue or go back, then decided I hadn’t noticed him and saw me rummaging through the middle console of the truck, went inside. Gotcha!
    I jumped in the truck, took off, guy#3 ran out to the van and climbed in.

    I saw lights on of a marque sign about a mile away. I was a church! Perfect! Thank you lord for Wednesday evening services! The van caught up to us and went by. We got into the church just in time for a hymn (I forget which one) and one of the best services I’d ever heard.

    -3 on 2 at least that I could see, and one of those two is my wife. No odds at all in my favor, strike one.

    -No weapon that I could get to in a hurry and I’m in a foreign country, strike two.

    -Then God hung a meatball right over the center of the plate in the form of that church with the lights on. Bam! walk-off homer for the good Lord above.

    Only story I got that doesn’t have me in cammies carrying an M16A2. FWIW

  • Good article.
    As the primary defender of the family there are other lessons as well to be learned from professional bodyguards such as positioning.
    I can’t form a diamond around my family as we go through the store and if I step between my wife and someone she’s talking to it’ll go as badly as stepping between a client and their clients they are speaking to.
    He can offer tips and suggestions on reactionary positioning that you can incorporate.
    I have limited experience under different work geography than most so it’d be better coming from him most likely.

  • Hi Daisy,
    I love articles like this. Very useful advice and the comments…great examples of the crazy things that can happen to people.
    I love the comment, “I’m to young to die and to old for a whuppin!” Amen to that 🙂

  • Yeah, new normal. Today I went into town over a bridge which had a pedestrian walk-way on it. In the middle of the walk-way on the bridge was a man standing there screaming at the top of his lungs, by himself, as people casually walked by him as if “no big deal, this happens all the time.” I don’t go anywhere unarmed, not even outside my home in my yard. Too many wild cards out and about anymore to feel safe. No big deal anymore. A friendly smile could incite violence in someone today.

  • Violence and mental illness seem more common as time goes by. Paying attention is our first line of defense.
    Good article.

  • Just read a bit of good news: According to WSJ, “2021 National Firearms Survey, designed by Deborah Azrael of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Matthew Miller of Northeastern University, show an estimated 3.5 million women became new gun owners from January 2019 through April of this year.”
    Good for them!
    Now, I just hope they can find ammo to train with.
    But it has also been reported ammo supply is returning, and prices are coming down.

  • The first part about the distance check reminds me of what my family’s martial arts instructor teaches about self defense. He has you begin with trying to de-escalate the situation by putting your hands up and taking a step back. For us this puts us into the correct foot stance with our hands ready to use our training while looking non aggressive. But I would think that separating step might temporarily take the aggressor off kilter because you disrupted his spacing plan giving you a few more seconds to deal with the situation.

  • Good info. I also reccomend reading Louis L’amour (the first 60 or so). His examples of situational awareness and personal moral responsability are awesome. Another excellent book: The Tao of Survival by James Ayres. Keep up the good work. Take care, Richard.

  • I avoid crowds. I avoid the times and places where crowds are likely to be, especially unfriendly crowds. At other times when I’m out I don’t look friendly because I’m not friendly. I guess it comes naturally. People just seem to leave me alone. I like that. As I age I like it even more. 😉

  • Interesting…I have a 30 foot rule. That is the minimum safe distance that is reasonable for a conceal carry defend (IMHO). Once they are inside that bubble the other techniques mentioned come into play.
    Your right Eye Contact is a must because it conveys you are aware and not easy prey. Conversation…they way someone talks back to you and their body language says a lot. Find out who is the “pack leader” if a group of people is involved.
    Weaponize anything and everything around you.
    Primary, secondary and tertiary ingress and egress. In route rally points; places quickly recognizable as you are moving.
    Defendable locations, choke points, etc.
    Everyday items to carry. Small flashlights with sufficient candle power to blind or distract. A folder knife (no one likes knife fighting…BHN – basic human nature.) I like tanto style blades because of their ability to puncture. 4 inch minimum. Whistle? Not normally something I carry daily (in my bug out/get home bag).
    Social Media…I don’t use any of it and frankly amazes me that people use it…any of the serious threat types that is.
    In a crowd…location location location. If you are in a large group at a venue (whatever that activity may be) be mindful of where you are. I am never never close to the front or the rear, the stage, the speaker, etc. , only time that is different is if I was doing a PSD, escort, etc. otherwise only on the perimeter, outside, etc.
    Driving is a whole different kettle of fish. That would be a discussion of a different kind, but has some similarities – routes, speeds, etc. plus you can carry a whole lot of “stuff” for your journey.
    Generally Keep your head on a swivel and remember nothing good happens after midnight! And good old common sense! The only crowd I ever find myself in is at Walmart – picking up “prudent supplies.” I try and ghost in and out of most places I go. Whataburger might be the exception! But I still sit where I can cover the doors…same at church…Sad but True!

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